The British naturalist and veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough told this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting: “The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are now in a new geological age – the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans.”

His words at Davos on climate change resonated with people around the world, as of course do his TV programmes – the Our Planet series was Netflix’s most-watched show in the UK in April.

Yet there are too few voices like Sir David’s being amplified in the mainstream media.

The climate story isn’t getting the front pages and airtime it deserves from many news organizations, which can perceive it as a “ratings killer”, or too complex for audiences to digest, according to a new initiative called Covering Climate Now.

Focused coverage

The project, co-founded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review in partnership with The Guardian, aims to break the “climate silence that has long prevailed within too much of the news media”.

It plans to do this by sparking a discussion among journalists about how all news outlets, whether digital, television, radio, or print, can improve their climate reporting.

As an important first step, it has asked the media to commit to running focused coverage of the issue in the week leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

The World Economic Forum's Sustainable Development Impact Summit takes place in New York on 23-24 September 2019. Taking place during the United Nations General Assembly, the summit engages the most relevant and influential leaders across business, government, civil society, NGOs and academia to collaborate on and address the world’s most pressing problems.

So far more than 60 news organizations in the US and abroad have signed up, from major newspapers and broadcasters to local TV stations, papers, and digital publications.

Image: Statista

Not just ‘one more story’

“We’re not here to tell people what to write or broadcast,” wrote Covering Climate Now’s co-founders Mark Hertsgaard (The Nation’s environment correspondent) and Kyle Pope (editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review).

“All that’s required is for each outlet to make a good faith effort to increase the amount and the visibility of its climate coverage – to make it clear to their audiences that climate change is not just one more story but the overriding story of our time.”

The hope is that by giving greater coverage to the climate story, the public and policymakers will be informed to make better choices.